Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri arrives home. What next?
The arrival of Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who reportedly defected to the US, closed a bizarre chapter in the 31-year US-Iran propaganda war. Now that he's home, Iranian officials are likely to ask him more probing questions.
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Amiri downplayed his nuclear credentials, saying he was a “simple researcher” at a university, and was “not involved in any confidential jobs. I had no classified information.” Any “normal” Iranian, he said, would have more nuclear knowledge than him about Iran's nuclear sites.Skip to next paragraph
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The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that the CIA had paid Amiri $5 million, as part of a secret American program to lure nuclear scientists from Iran.
Quoting unnamed US intelligence officials, the Post reported that Amiri was “not obligated to return the money but might be unable to access it after breaking off what officials described as significant cooperation with the CIA and abruptly returning to Iran.”
“He’s gone, but his money’s not,” the Post quoted a US official saying. “We have his information, and the Iranians have him.”
Early Thursday in Tehran, however, Amiri claimed to have rejected a US offer of $50 million to safely resettle him and his family in a European country if he “reversed his decision to return to Iran." US agents, he also alleged, were willing to pay $10 million if he did a 10-minute interview with CNN affirming that he came to the US of his own free will.
Iranians call on US to admit defeat
Iranian press reports declared Amiri’s return a “new victory for the Iranian intelligence apparatus.”
That view was reinforced on PressTV – as it almost certainly was on Farsi-language broadcasts – by comments like those of journalist Ghanbar Naderi, a columnist for a government newspaper Iran Daily.
“I’m telling the Americans: Have the guts, admit defeat, and leave the [soccer] pitch,” said Mr. Naderi. “Because, trust me, they would be saving us all a lot of headache.”
Amiri denied that his family had been under pressure, despite US media reports to the contrary. In late June, ABC news quoted unnamed US officials saying that Amiri had made two calls to his wife and son in Tehran – the second of which was answered by Iranian intelligence agents, who said the son would be killed if Amiri did not produce a video saying he had been abducted, which he did.
“It is not true at all,” Amiri said at the airport press conference. “After my abduction, Iranian officials supported my family.”
Among the airport welcoming committee was a deputy foreign minister, Hassan Qashqavi, who denied rumors that Amiri’s return to Iran could potentially bring home three Americans arrested in July 2009 while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border and accused of espionage.
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